Robert Louis Stevenson Sr., 90, of Philadelphia, a Mason, church deacon, and retired executive chef, died Thursday, Oct. 24, of respiratory failure at his home.
Mr. Stevenson was born in Chester to Isaac Cottman and Bertha M. Stevenson. He and brother Edward were raised by their mother in a Christian home, his family said.
In 1943, he graduated from Frederick Douglass Junior High School in Chester. He attended Chester High School but did not graduate because he had to provide for his family.
“He had a passion for preparing great food for the soul,” his family said. His first foray into the culinary arts was as a sous chef in a dining room for employees at the Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. in Chester. As a result of his work ethic, he was promoted within the culinary department.
Later, he worked at various companies, but his most lasting job was as executive chef in the corporate offices of Service of America Corp. in the western suburbs. He retired in the mid-1990s after working there for 21 years, said his daughter the Rev. Shawn L. Woods.
In 1951, Mr. Stevenson married Lizzieola “Betty” White. The couple had five children and built their home life on the religious foundation laid by Mr. Stevenson’s mother.
Mr. Stevenson often used his children as taste testers while trying out recipes at home. He catered for the Philadelphia International Folk Fair, community events, church programs, and weddings.
He was known for his pink potato salad — the recipe is secret — spare ribs, ambrosia, and sweet potato pie, all family dinner favorites. “Everything he prepared was sprinkled with passion and love,” his family said.
Mr. Stevenson was baptized in 1952 at Mount Zion Baptist Church. He began his church service as an usher. He served as a chaplain for four decades and sang in the male chorus, which he helped organize, for 55 years. He graduated from the Mount Zion Baptist Church Higher Ground Bible Institute.
Known for his “soul-stirring prayers, quick wit, and commanding presence,” Mr. Stevenson became a church deacon in 1991. No matter the time, place, or weather, he would go out to those who called.
“When he could no longer drive, he took public transportation to visit those hospitalized or in need of comfort and prayer,” his family said.
In 2016, he and his wife were honored with the Outstanding Deacon-Deaconess Awards and the Lifetime Achievement Award, both given by Live Right Ministries, a group centered on Christian values.
He became a Master Mason of the Olive Branch No. 8 in March 1984. He was its recording secretary and a member of the Eastern Light Chapter No. 8. He also served in many roles for Progress Council No. 2, and as recording secretary for the Joseph D. Brinkley Square Club.
Mr. Stevenson served as a Democratic committeeman and judge of elections in the city’s 46th Ward.
He enjoyed dancing, bowling, roller skating, and pitching underhanded in softball. His family said he was known for his stories, poems, and contagious sense of humor.
Besides his wife and daughter, he is survived by children the Rev. Robert L. Jr., Rhonda J., and Craig L.; five grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; a great-great-grandchild; and nieces and nephews. A son, Brian Keith, died earlier.